11 com­pa­nies want to build off­shore wind farms in SLO County

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KAYTLYN LES­LIE [email protected]­bune­news.com Kaytlyn Les­lie: 805-781-7928, @Kaytyleslie

Mas­sive pods of 700foot float­ing wind tur­bines off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia are edg­ing closer to be­com­ing a re­al­ity, now that the state has firm ap­pli­ca­tions from sev­eral com­pa­nies hop­ing to re­al­ize the vi­sion.

Four­teen com­pa­nies have ap­plied to build wind tur­bine farms along the Cal­i­for­nia coast, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment (BOEM) an­nounced in April.

No­tably for the Cen­tral Coast, 11 of the 14 com­pa­nies ex­pressed a spe­cific in­ter­est in a plot of ocean out­side of San Simeon, la­beled the Morro Bay call area, and 11 ex­pressed an in­ter­est in the Di­ablo Canyon call area out­side of the nu­clear power plant.

Among those was Cas­tle Wind LLC, which first ex­pressed an in­ter­est in the Morro Bay call area back in Jan­uary 2016 as Tri­dent Winds LLC — kick­ing off a dis­cus­sion of off­shore wind farms along the Cal­i­for­nia coast.

The BOEM is­sued a call for ap­pli­ca­tions in Oc­to­ber 2018, ask­ing for com­mer­cial com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in leas­ing space for 700-foot, float­ing off­shore wind tur­bines along parts of the Cal­i­for­nia coast.

The 14 com­pa­nies se­lected have ad­di­tion­ally been vet­ted by the BOEM, and found to be “legally, tech­ni­cally and fi­nan­cially qual­i­fied to hold an outer con­ti­nen­tal shelf re­new­able en­ergy lease,” ac­cord­ing to the bureau’s web­site.

None of the com­pa­nies have been of­fered leases yet — that is still pend­ing fur­ther re­view by the organization, BOEM spokesman John Romero told The Tribune via email.

“BOEM is cur­rently re­view­ing the com­ments and nom­i­na­tions re­ceived and will con­tinue to con­sult with the state of Cal­i­for­nia and other fed­eral agen­cies to in­form our de­ci­sion to of­fer all or part of the call ar­eas for com­mer­cial wind leas­ing,” Romero wrote.

Mean­while, the bureau is still wait­ing to hear from the U.S. Navy on whether it will sup­port wind en­ergy de­vel­op­ment off the coast.

State and San Luis Obispo County lead­ers told The Tribune in March that they were in­formed the Navy would likely rec­om­mend against build­ing po­ten­tial wind farms off the coast of Morro Bay and Di­ablo Canyon nu­clear power plant — some­thing that could ef­fec­tively sink hopes for the North Coast to be a new hub of re­new­able en­ergy.

Lead­ers held a meet­ing with mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and BOEM to suss out po­ten­tial com­pro­mises and so­lu­tions to the Navy’s con­cerns, but no word has since been re­leased on the Navy’s stance. (The Navy re­leased a map in 2017 that marked much of the ocean off the Cen­tral Coast as un­suit­able to wind en­ergy be­cause it would in­ter­fere with mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions and test­ing.

In a Tribune ar­ti­cle pub­lished March 21, Third District Su­per­vi­sor Adam Hill said he felt the Navy could be per­suaded to al­low wind tur­bines in the Morro Bay call area, though he doubted it would be al­lowed in the Di­ablo Canyon call area.

Morro Bay Mayor John Headding echoed Hill’s as­ser­tion.

As of May 6, Romero said BOEM had not re­ceived a let­ter from the Navy ex­press­ing a po­si­tion on po­ten­tial off­shore wind leas­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia.

The next step, ac­cord­ing to Romero, is for BOEM to de­cide whether it all or part of the call ar­eas are ap­pro­pri­ate for leas­ing, and then choose which, if any, com­pa­nies will be of­fered leases.

Cour­tesy of Bureau of Ocean En­ergy Man­age­ment

A map shows po­ten­tial call ar­eas for fu­ture wind farm de­vel­op­ments.

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